React or Respond

Posted: Category: Personal, Reflections

 Nigel Singer


How are you? No really, how are you?

How are you moving through your day?

Is life happening to you as a passive participant or are you getting to make choices?

At every waking moment there is a possibility that you can make a choice.

How are you choosing right now?

Before I take this further let me offer you a couple of definitions

A reaction is something that I seem to not have control over.  Someone pushes me and I push back.  Another driver causes me to brake sharply and I get angry with them. My partner accuses me of neglecting them and I get upset or angry.

A response takes the same situations as above but introduces the element of choice.  The event occurs and I make a choice about what I do.  I might be angry or upset or I might choose to ask why they feel I am neglecting them.


So back to your day…

Are you reacting to it or responding?

Your life might be busy, full of deadlines imposed by other people or by yourself.  Loads of emails to answer and decisions to make.

Your life may be quiet – you may not have paid or unpaid work.  There may be no push on you to get out of bed in the morning.

You may sleep badly.

You may have a life that is comfortably paced for you but your brain is always buzzing.  ‘I should be doing more; I should be earning more; if only….’

If you are happy with your situation and your life is comfortably responsive, then stop reading here.

If you are not happy then there are three keys to shifting from a reaction to a response:

Move, Breathe and Think

I will explore all of these in more detail in later posts but for now here are a few quick options.


Leave your chair, go make a cup of tea, stretch, touch your toes (or your knees), walk your dog, go for a swim. Do something that causes a change of posture as it will help you get out of reaction.


Take a deep intentional breath, it will immediately shift you from reaction to response.  Breathing is the quickest way of changing your state and helping to relax so give yourself a moment to pause and breathe on purpose, then do it again. 


Examine your thinking.  Are you telling yourself a ‘story’ about your situation?  If your story includes the words ‘should’, ‘ought’ or ‘must’ then you are probably in a reactive place.  Are you justifying yourself?  What starts to happen if you notice ‘shoulds’ and justifictions?


It’s your life, is it having you or are you having it?